MFOA Bill: Stricter laws for post-conviction (animal cruelty) possession of animals

Sponsor:  Rep. Donna Bailey, Saco, District 14

 

The purpose of this bill is to deter animal cruelty by enacting more meaningful and enforceable legislation, on past animal cruelty perpetrators. Persons convicted of animal cruelty often are not allowed to have animals, but some continue do so as the current law treats it as a violation of a court order that often is unenforced.  

The original bill printed as LD 64 was the same legislation that we passed in the 126th in 2013 in the House and Senate, but was vetoed by the Governor. With a different political environment, we submitted the same legislation early for the 129th, but it was printed before we could submit revised legislation as planned.  

States are now legislating on the future ownership of animals, specifically the mandatory prohibition for higher levels of animal cruelty, including when appropriate, prohibition of owning and having contact with animals, clear time limits, and clear penalties for violations. In the six years since this bill was voted on, better written and more comprehensive legislation on post-conviction possession has been passed addressing the need for stronger laws to prevent future ownership and custody, and provide prosecutors with better tools and remedies to efficiently enforce violation of the ownership limitation. 

The following is the bill that will be substituted for the original LD 64.

Sec. 1 17 MRSA §1031, sub-§3-B, as amended by PL 2009, c. 573, §2, is further amended to read: 3-B. Penalties.  The following apply to violations of this section.

A. In addition to any other penalty authorized by law and notwithstanding the provisions of Title 17-A, section 1202, subsection 1, the court shall impose a fine of not less than $500 for each violation of this section. The court may order the defendant to pay the costs of the care, housing and veterinary medical treatment for the animal including the costs of relocating the animal.

B. The court, as part of the sentence for a violation of this section: 

(1) May prohibit a defendant convicted of a Class D crime under this section from owning, possessing or having on the defendant’s premises an animal or animals for a period of time which the court deems reasonable following entry of conviction, up to and including permanent relinquishment, as determined by the court;

(2) Shall prohibit a defendant convicted of a Class C crime under this section from owning, possessing or having on the defendant’s premises an animal or animals for a period of at least 5 years  following the entry of conviction, up to and including permanent relinquishment, as determined by the court;

(3) May impose any other reasonable restrictions on a defendant’s future ownership or custody of animals as necessary for the protection of animals as determined by the court. For purposes of this paragraph, a reasonable restriction on future ownership or custody may include limiting a person from engaging in any employment in the care of animals or any other contact as the court see fit; and

(4) May allow that upon completion of conditions specified by the court, such as psychiatric or psychological counselling at a defendant’s expense, the period of prohibition of owning, possessing, having on the defendant’s premises an animal or animals, or other reasonable restrictions on a defendant’s future ownership or custody of animals is to be reduced to a lesser period of time as determined by the court.  

Violation of a court order issued pursuant to this paragraph is a Class D crime

Any animal involved in a violation of a court order prohibiting or limiting ownership or custody of animals pursuant to this paragraph shall be subject to immediate forfeiture. 

As Rep. Jethro Pease said in Committee in 2013 ”There are animal abusers where a contempt of court is not enough and more meaningful action is needed.”

The original bill stated the court shall prohibit a defendant from owning animals for 5 years if a Class D crime and 15 years if a Class C Crime. It included a petition for relief section that may be problematic, and the bill, as written, may have a fiscal note. The new bill is less severe, very similar to a NH bill that recently was passed, and still a big improvement by providing more effective language, more judicial discretion, and a stronger deterrent to offenders who will face meaningful consequences for violation of a post-conviction possession ban. 

Finally, many Animal Control Officers view this legislation favorably given that most town ACO budgets that are depleted is due primarily to repeat offenders.

This legislation was progressive in 2013 and since then many states are writing stronger laws addressing post conviction ownership and custody. This bill strikes a good balance that we hope can finally get it over the finish line. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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